Personal Safety and Change and Why I Went Private on Twitter

I grew up in a time when children didn’t have to bring their candy home from Halloween and have it checked.  And while I was told not to talk to strangers or take candy from anyone, I was instructed to go to a policeman if I was in trouble.  So it is not surprising that as a young adult I was comfortable traveling to Europe on my own (all be it in the Northern Part).  

I never felt anxious or fearful walking alone at night in the city.  I have been known to hitchhike in the city during a transit strike. Canada has always been a “safe” place and here in Switzerland one gets the same feeling that it is OK that our kids can play outside around the neighbourhood.  I had the privilege of always feeling personally safe.

This is simply not the case for many people around the world and perhaps even someone you know living next door.  Domestic violence, sexual abuse, slavery, political torture and ethic genocide are all closer than we may realize.  Fear is an amazing tactic to keep us silent.  I don’t think I fully grasped the significance of this until I was recently reminded of something. 

Have you ever been harassed via email? I have. It was back in 2003.  Something of mine had been published online out of context and I sent a private email to ask that a correction be made.  This resulted in a series of bullying emails that were scary due to the craziness and menacing style. I disengaged and began to step back from my online presence.  The author of these emails had a large database and I was afraid of what he might do to my reputation.  For the first time in my life I was fearful and acted like a victim.  Life goes on and the feelings receded in my mind.  

This very same person has recently requested to connect with me through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It is as though we are colleagues with some sort of good relationship. I simply ignored them.  I was very surprised to find these old feelings of anger (fear) surface a few days ago when this person began sending replies to ask me why I hadn’t followed back on Twitter.  The person was suspended later that day and then opened up another account.

Sure I could have just blocked the identity but this could go on forever.  I then got thinking about all these other “crazies” out there who might follow me or even if they didn’t a search is easy enough to do and find my tweets and read them anyway.  I could be retweeted out of context AGAIN.  

Stay cool, don’t let someone (or something) rent space in your head. (Robert Bacal)

The post mentioned below had been circulating in my mind since I had read it a few months back. So I decided to re-evaluate my strategy for social networks – specifically Twitter and decided to remove myself from the public timeline. I still maintain a strong online presence and will continue to do so but I decided that I had the right to be in control of who could or couldn’t pester me.  I have no need to be famous. 

Which brings me back to the point I wish to make about personal safety and change . . . I have a new found respect for anyone in the pubic eye – regardless of the reason or how I may feel about them.   It is easy for us to remain silent, feeling safe and secure knowing that no one can point at us directly.   German anti-Nazi activist, Pastor Martin Niemöller (in his often misquoted speech that I too have misquoted) gave us the best reason not to remain silent.  “Then they came for me - and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

If one is sane, to stand up to opposition and be counted takes a tremendous amount of courage. So it seems to me that courage is a precursor for change.  And I know that this is scary.  Change always comes at a cost or a loss.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  AND it is worth it. 

I suppose too, that when someone asks what “I do” or “we do” at 1-Focus International, our response is pretty consistent.  We say that we help create and hold a “safe space” for people to do their work and thereby the group or team can co-develop their shared vision of the future and begin the process of sustainable change.  And as coaches we do the same.  We my ask powerful questions but first we establish the safety to explore ideas or places that are unfamiliar. 

While not about harassment on Twitter, this is a must read: Why my Twitter updates are protected by Melanie McBride.

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